City’s Smallest Graduates Take Big Steps Forward

Paul Bass PhotoAaron Brown didn’t walk down an aisle to become a graduate Friday. He walked three long city blocks on two little feet.

He joined his fellow pre-schoolers at the Montessori School on Edgewood for a march from their building to the auditorium at nearby Amistad Academy, where the pre-school held its fifth commencement exercises. Guided by his teacher, Amelia Sherwood, Aaron brought up the rear as fellow graduates (dressed in white caps and gowns) and other students (in green) crossed Orchard and Kensington streets singing not “Pomp and Circumstance” but rather “The ABC Song,” testifying their mastery of the alphabet as graduates headed for K-8 schools.

Teacher Sherwood, meanwhile, spoke of how she enjoyed her first year in the classroom, where, according to Montessori tradition, kids take the lead on what they want to learn and how. “They guide us,” Sherwood said. (The city has approved plans to open a second Montessori pre-school as a charter in 2014.)

Neighbor Idalys Cantini captured the passing parade with her cell phone.

The school graduated 12 children in all Friday morning. Three of them—including Ricardo Turner III (pictured)—will return to the Amistad Academy charter school building in the fall as enrolled kindergarteners. Other graduates will head to conventional public schools like Troup and Strong. Ricardo is the grandson of a former alderman, the late Ricardo Turner, and of Doreen Murdock, who attended Friday’s graduation (and is pictured with him). Murdock said the Montessori pre-school offered her grandson a “great structure” and a “sense of independence. If they put on their shoe backwards, and they’re comfortable with that, they let them do that.” For the record, little Ricardo wears his footwear frontwards.

Assistant teacher Lassie Pinkney handed out programs ...

... as excited family members, seated behind a roped-off well of tot-sized chairs, awaited the students’ entrance into the auditorium.

It was the fifth commencement exercise for the Dwight Montessori, which opened its doors seven years ago with 12 students. Today it has grown to 58 students. Greater Dwight Development Corporation founder Linda Townsend-Maier (at right in photo with school operations director April Kilgore) serves as the school’s director.

On other days you can also find Townsend-Maier outside planting flowers by the pocket park at the corner near the school.

Both the park and the Montessori building replaced problem lots, as part of Townsend-Maier’s and the development corporation’s long-running efforts to improve the Dwight neighborhood.

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